I just got the news that the Health Minister has said Tobacco cultivation will be banned effective 2020. This will immediately put about 250,000 lives, who depend on this crop, in jeopardy, for LITTLE benefit.
Yes the WHO has given guidelines on Tobacco growing and how harmful it is etc. However that is relative to other comparisons, and there are far more important matters that affect the lives of people in Sri Lanka, than stopping Tobacco Cultivation. Once we prioritize and prepare a list in importance, even for the health of the people of Sri Lanka, you will soon realize that banning the sale of White Sugar will save MORE lives than growing Tobacco, and that industry, will not affect jobs as all refined sugar is imported. Again, this edict is scoring cheap political points, for no apparent reason.
Worse, and I have already blogged about it here, that as out-grower cultivation systems go, Tobacco Cultivation is the most sophisticated of them all with the whole process being highly monitored and managed that is an example to us all on how to manage a cultivation so that the supply and demand is well known and managed. If only we used that system for our paddy cultivation, we would not only be able to give our farmers a better price, it could also compromise the Paddy Mafia and give both the Consumer and Producer a fair shake of the pie reducing the middleman’s share. That is a far more important issue than this proposed ban.
In a country that is teeming with illicit cigarette imports, and with the banning, all cigarettes will be imported, negating the need for the highest capitalized Co in Sri Lanka, which will merely be a trading concern, adding NO value to the economy unlike the present scenario. In short ZERO value addition within Sri Lanka, and all benefiting overseas suppliers. How foolish can our lawmakers be?
A Country, unable to cope with a simple flood, not informing citizens of the dangers their homes are in, are resorting to such asinine statements to distract the people from the very real issues we face. The lack of an early warning system for flood evacuation is a priority and has been for a long time too.
Unfortunately in a Country where our people don’t think, these words sound very noble and politically correct. However when one delves deeper with a proper evaluation of the matter, one sees the futility of this step, as NOT addressing the real problems of society and deflecting blame on Tobacco, everyone’s punching bag. I would even go as far as arguing that this is a counterproductive step, which hardly achieves the objectives expected!
The problem of the widespread availability of drugs and their use, is far more dangerous but not even addressed by our leaders as THEY DO NOT HAVE a plan to combat this menace. This is possibly because people in high places are complicit, or are beneficiaries from the largesse these lucrative rackets provide.
The tobacco industry to be fair has provided the tobacco farmers with a good income, fair prices and a very detailed system of advice and assistance to the outgrowers that is the envy of agriculture. Unfortunately the Minister of Health is probably NOT even aware of the sophistication of this system and how it has helped the growers, when making these knee-jerk statements. If we had made use of this system and introduced this to other food production, we could have been better able to manage the growing of cash crops for food, including paddy.
Once this system is GONE for good, there is NO possibility of replicating it either, so if we are to do away with Tobacco they could at least have used this sophisticated outgrower system and system of advisers to better manage other crops first.
“As usual we are putting the cart before the horse, and are left with neither a cart or the horse, as both would have bolted out of sight, never to be seen again!”
Firstly, when we don’t listen to foreign advice on most things we are taking a cue from the WHO against the interests of Sri Lanka. Tell us if there is any other country on the face of the earth that has taken such a measure, and ask yourself why? If you say it is because of the strength of the Tobacco Lobby, you must be insane. It is simply bad economics and we can’t teach basic Economics to our Rulers if the way they have conducted their management of the Economy is any indication to date.
It is time Sri Lanka stops from falling from the frying pan into the fire and think outside the box to tackle the most important issues of the day, that affect the very fabric of our society.
After I read a recent report, where it was shown how diesel fumes stunt growth and cut short the life expectancy of children, banning children from spending over an hour in a school van, would reduce the death rate more than the banning of the growth of Tobacco. That is what I mean by thinking outside the box and prioritizing what is important, if death rate is the key!
In short telling Mothers that sending their children to Royal in a school van that is NOT air-conditioned is going to kill them at a younger age is more important than banning Tobacco cultivation. However that will NOT win you votes though!!!